Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts charming gassho-zukuri houses with steep roofs resembling praying hands.

Nestled amidst the picturesque mountains of Gifu Prefecture in Japan, the charming village of Shirakawa-go stands as a testament to Japan's rich cultural heritage. Known for its traditional thatched-roof houses and captivating rural landscapes, this UNESCO World Heritage site has become a popular destination for travelers seeking an immersive glimpse into traditional Japanese village life. In this blog post, we will explore everything you need to know about visiting Shirakawa-go, from the best things to do and see.


Shirakawa-go is a small village located in the remote area of Gifu Prefecture, approximately 250 kilometers west of Tokyo. With its origins dating back to the 12th century, the village has preserved its traditional architecture and ambiance remarkably well. The thatched-roof houses, known as gassho-zukuri, are sturdy structures designed to withstand the region's heavy snowfall during winter. These unique roofs resemble hands clasped in prayer, which is symbolic of the strong community bonds within the village.

Things to Do

  1. Explore the Historic Village: Take a leisurely stroll through the village to marvel at the unique gassho-zukuri houses. The Wada House, a former samurai residence turned museum, offers a fascinating glimpse into the lifestyles of the past.

  2. Visit the Observation Decks: Head to the nearby observation decks, such as the Shiroyama Viewpoint or Tenshukaku Viewpoint, to enjoy panoramic views of Shirakawa-go and its breathtaking natural surroundings.

  3. Experience Traditional Crafts: Engage in hands-on activities such as making washi paper or painting wooden crafts. These workshops allow visitors to experience the traditional crafts that have been passed down through generations.

  4. Enjoy Local Cuisine: Sample the local delicacies of Shirakawa-go, including hearty soba noodles and grilled river fish. Don't forget to try the famous Hida beef, known for its exceptional tenderness and marbling.

  5. Experience Seasonal Festivals: If you visit during specific times, you may have the chance to witness traditional festivals such as the Doburoku Festival (January) or the Wada Family Cultural Festival (August).

1-Day Itinerary

If you have limited time, here's a suggested itinerary for a day trip to Shirakawa-go:

  • Morning: Explore the village and visit the Wada House museum to learn about the history and culture of Shirakawa-go.

  • Afternoon: Take a short hike to the observation decks for stunning panoramic views. Enjoy a traditional lunch at a local restaurant.

  • Evening: Engage in a traditional craft workshop or attend a seasonal festival, if available. Wrap up your visit by enjoying the serene atmosphere of the village during the evening hours.

Where to Eat

Shirakawa-go offers a variety of dining options to satisfy your culinary cravings. Local restaurants and traditional ryokans (inns) serve a range of regional specialties. Some popular choices include:

  1. Kakashi no Sato: This charming restaurant offers a picturesque setting and serves delicious soba noodles made from locally sourced ingredients.

  2. Hida Kotteushi: Experience the melt-in-your-mouth flavors of Hida beef in this restaurant, which offers a variety of cooked and grilled beef dishes.

  3. Warabi: Enjoy a traditional Japanese multi-course meal, known as kaiseki, in this cozy restaurant. Delight in beautifully presented seasonal dishes made with local ingredients.

Where to Stay

To fully immerse yourself in the tranquil atmosphere of Shirakawa-go, consider staying at one of the traditional ryokans in the village. These accommodations provide a unique experience, allowing you to sleep on tatami mats and indulge in onsen (hot spring) baths. Some popular options include:

  1. Kanjincho: This ryokan offers comfortable rooms with traditional Japanese aesthetics and a communal bath fed by natural hot spring waters.

  2. Shirakawa-go Guesthouse Kei: Experience a homestay atmosphere in this guesthouse, where you can interact with the friendly hosts and other travelers.

How to Get There

From Tokyo:

  • By Train: Take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Nagoya Station. From Nagoya, take the JR Takayama Line Limited Express train to Takayama. Finally, board a bus from Takayama to Shirakawa-go.

  • By Bus: Direct highway buses operate from Shinjuku (Tokyo) to Shirakawa-go. The journey takes around 5-6 hours.

From Osaka:

  • By Train: Take the JR Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Nagoya Station. From Nagoya, continue as mentioned above.

  • By Bus: Direct highway buses operate from Osaka (Umeda) to Shirakawa-go, with a journey time of around 4-5 hours.

Best Time to Visit

Shirakawa-go offers different charms throughout the year, making it a desirable destination regardless of the season. However, the village is particularly enchanting during the winter months (December to February), when the gassho-zukuri houses are shimmering under a mantle of snow. Visiting during this time adds a fairytale-like quality to the experience.

Tips for Visiting

  • Consider visiting on weekdays to avoid crowds, as Shirakawa-go can become quite busy during weekends and public holidays.

  • Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking, as the village terrain can be uneven.

  • Dress appropriately for the weather, as temperatures can be colder in the mountainous region.

  • Respect the rules and regulations of the village, as it is a well-preserved cultural heritage site.

  • Be mindful of noise levels, as Shirakawa-go is a serene and peaceful place.


Q: How much time should I spend in Shirakawa-go?
A: A day trip is sufficient to explore the village. However, if you wish to experience the tranquility of the night or explore nearby attractions, consider staying overnight.

Q: Is it possible to visit Shirakawa-go during the summer?
A: Yes, visiting during the summer offers a different perspective of the village and allows you to enjoy outdoor activities and local festivals.

Q: Is there an entrance fee to visit Shirakawa-go?
A: No, generally visiting the village is free, but there is a small entrance fee on some houses/buildings that helps maintain and preserve the village's historic buildings.

Places to Visit Nearby

While Shirakawa-go can captivate you for hours, there are additional nearby attractions worth exploring:

  • Takayama: Known for its well-preserved Edo period streets and traditional festivals, Takayama offers a unique blend of history, culture, and local cuisine.

  • Hida Furukawa: Located only a short distance from Shirakawa-go, this town boasts its own collection of beautifully preserved traditional houses and canals.

  • Gero Onsen: A popular hot spring resort town famous for its healing waters and serene atmosphere.

Shirakawa-go, with its architectural wonders, charming village life, and natural beauty, is a destination that will leave a lasting impression on any visitor. Whether you explore its historic streets, indulge in local delicacies, or simply take in the breathtaking surroundings, Shirakawa-go is sure to provide a captivating experience that will transport you back in time while creating cherished memories.